In J. R. R. Tolkien's legendarium, Arda is the name given to the Earth in a period of prehistory, wherein the places mentioned in The Lord of the Rings and related material once existed. It included several seas and oceans, and the continents of Middle-earth, the Dark Lands, and Aman, as well as the island of Númenor and other lands, left largely unnamed by Tolkien.
Arda was part of Eä, the universe of all which exists. Arda was created, together with the rest of Eä, through the Music of the Ainur for the Children of Ilúvatar (that is, Elves and Men).
Because the Sun, Moon, stars, and other objects orbited the planet in the cosmology of Middle-earth they were considered part of Arda, leading to Arda sometimes being called the 'Solar System' of Middle-earth. The term for the Earth itself, excluding these celestial bodies, was Ambar or Imbar.
Originally the Earth (Arda) was flat, the continents were surrounded by a mighty ocean (or perhaps by space), Ekkaia or Vaiya, the Encircling Sea, and separated by Belegaer, called the Great Sea and the Sundering Seas. In the First Age, the area in the northwest of Middle-earth was occupied by the country of Beleriand, but this was destroyed during the War of Wrath.
There was also a separate continent south and east of Middle-earth called the Dark Land. Another separate continent to the east of Middle-earth was the relatively small Land of the Sun, so called because when the world was flat the Gates of the Sun were near there, and it would be scorched.
Information regarding both was vague. To the south were the Hither Lands including Harad, though "Harad" means "South" and while properly used for the region immediately south of Gondor and Mordor was often loosely used to refer to every land to the south. There were many stretches of sun-scorched desert in Near Harad, but there was supposedly a jungle beyond it which few had ever ventured to, from which the great Oliphaunts were found. Men of Far Harad are also described as being black skinned. The vast lands East were collectively referred to as Rhûn, though this may have only referred to those immediately east of the Sea of Rhûn and River Running. The Easterlings, like the Haradrim, were a diverse collection of many races. There was even less knowledge of the extreme eastern end of Middle-earth, where the land was supposed to stop at another sea. It is known that in ancient times the great chain of the Red Mountains ran north to south near here, and was roughly analogous to the Blue Mountains of the west (the world was once symmetrical at the dawn of time). The race of Elves first originated near here, though their original home of Cuiviénen no longer existed by the Third Age. It is not known if the Red Mountains survived into the Third Age, either intact or in some reduced form (like the Blue Mountains). It is said that the Blue Wizards went far into the east of Rhûn and beyond to stir up rebellions against Sauron in the lands he held sway over, though the tales of these struggles never reached the west in detail.
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